Guns and Loads
For pheasant, a 12 gauge, 20 gauge or 16 gauge is acceptable. However, ammunition is more expensive than that for the 12 gauge or 20 gauge. Ammunition costs will vary between these options, 16 gauge ammo being the most expensive. Some folks tell me they hunt pheasants with a 28 gauge. Unless you are a crack shot and the birds are holding tight, I would stay away from the 28 when hunting pheasants. For a 12 gauge, I prefer using 2 ¾ inch, # 5 pheasant loads in the early season. Go to 2 ¾ inch, # 4 loads for the late season, as the birds will be spooky and flushing further out. For a 20 gauge, I recommend using 3 inch, # 4 and # 5, as described above. Some hunters use # 6 loads, which will work on close shots within 25 yards. Pheasants are tough birds to kill and require accurate shooting to bring them down dead.
Speaking of accurate shooting, a proper gun fit is a must. Most shotguns are built to a uniform standard and may need some adjustments to fit properly. A simple check with your local gunsmith will let you know if your gun fits you properly. Contact a local trap range, as many have a gun fitter on sight. They can make minor corrections.
Another important factor to good shooting is proper gun mount. It should be smooth and not hurried. Pheasants fly at around 40 mph. Shot loads travel at 1200 feet per second plus. If flushed within range, say 40 yards, they are not going to outpace your pellets! Practice your mount in front of a full-length mirror, concentrating on bringing the gun to your cheek, not your shoulder. If your gun fits properly, your eye will be right down the sight line of the barrel. An important thing to remember is that you point a shotgun vs. aiming a rifle. In other words, do not look at the end of the barrel. Concentrate on the bird. Better yet, concentrate on the birds head. Also, when mounting your shotgun, bring the gun up from below the bird and not down from the top. On straight away shots, when the gun covers the bird, pull the trigger. On crossing shots, when the gun covers the bird, move the gun ahead of the bird to create a gap (lead) between the barrel and head of the bird. Keep the gun moving and pull the trigger. A good slogan to remember is, “butt, belly, beak, BOOM!” Length of lead depends on the distance the bird is from you. Also, very windy conditions will affect your lead. Practice and many repetitions will help here. Also, a few lessons from a shooting instructor are a valuable investment.
The first thing is to remember what you learned in your hunter’s safety classes. If hunting the traditional field drive, keep your gun pointing skyward, never toward the ground or towards hunters to right or left of you. Your area to shoot is 45 degrees, right or left of the centerline in front of you. If the bird gets up behind you, do not mount your gun and swing through the group. Rather, keep you gun skyward and turn 180 degrees. Then mount your gun remembering to come up to the bird and not down to the bird. If birds are getting up in back of you, you are walking too fast. See last month’s tip on How to Hunt. When hunting over dogs, make sure there is sky between the bird and the ground on low flying birds. Many dogs will jump on the flush, so be careful! When field blockers are present, do not shoot low flying birds within 100 yards of them. Let them do their job, as that is why they are blocking.
Always hunt with the safety in the “on” position. Your gun mount should include a release of the safety as you mount the gun. Again, practice will make this a natural part of your gun mount. When crossing fences or other obstacles, unload your gun before crossing. Hand your gun to a hunting partner when crossing a fence or obstacle. When hunting alone, place you gun over the fence, down a couple of fence posts from where you are going over. This way, any fence movement will not cause your gun to fall over. Also, have your dog “whoa” (pointer) or “sit” (flusher) while you are crossing a fence or obstacle. Good manners in the field will keep your dog safe as well.
Lastly, wear some blaze orange. I like a blaze cap and vest as a minimum. Remember, you are not trying to hide from the birds. You want to be visible to your fellow hunters or others that may be in the field. For more information on pheasant and upland bird hunting, please go to my web site www.huntsmartpro.com and order our videos “Hunting Pheasant’s on the High Plains” and “Keys to Successful Upland Bird Hunting”.
As promised, here are a couple of pheasant recipes I think you will enjoy:
Breast of Pheasant Over Wild Rice Note: This recipe works well for dove, quail and grouse as well.
De-bone pheasant breasts.
Sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika and dip in flour.
Brown in olive oil until golden brown.
Create sauce by adding sour cream, mushroom soup, finely chopped onion to the olive oil in which the pheasants were browned.
Pour prepared sauce on pheasants and bake in oven at 325 degrees for 1 ½ hours.
Boil wild rice in chicken broth per instruction on package. Note: You can add celery and mushrooms to spruce up the wild rice.
Place pheasant breasts over individual servings of the cooked rice.
3 cups cooked pheasant Combine all ingredients except butter
2 cups celery, chopped corn flakes and almonds in a large
2 cups cooked wild rice wild rice casserole dish. Melt butter and combine
¾ cup mayonnaise with crushed corn flakes and almonds
1 tablespoon chopped onion
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup of sliced water chestnuts
3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1 stick butter
1 cup corn flakes, crushed
½ cup sliced almonds
Combine all ingredients except butter, corn flakes and almonds in a large casserole dish. Melt butter and combine with crushed corn flakes and almonds. Spread over casserole and bake at 350 degrees 10-15 minutes or until heated throughout.
Next month, we will discuss what to do when your dog gets sprayed by a skunk! You won’t want to miss that one. See you then.
CJ & Shawnee